Following on from our Little Book of Inspiration project yesterday, here are some tips for when inspiration has faded away.
If you are lacking inspiration in your card making or other crafts, you have come to the right place. In this article, I am going to share some of the ways that I kickstart my creative ideas, when things get difficult.This is a general article so these tips can be applied to anything you do that requires ideas and inspiration, not just card making!
I have to come clean and say that there are times when my creative juices definitely dry up! This happens to everyone at some point and even if you have heaps of ideas in your head, you can sometimes struggle with how to put them into practice. I know from experience that even when you think all is lost, that eventually things will fall into place and you will find yourself back in creative mode again. Sometimes the creative block can disappear quite a while, I have had patches of up to six weeks when I could barely bring myself to enter my craft room. The dust was mounting up on my craft mat and there were dead insects on the window-ledge and I could not bear to pick up my craft tools.
What you must not do is lose hope because like a wandering tomcat, your creativity will return, you just have to be patient.
Here are the top ten things I found help me when I am lacking creative energy for crafting. Who knows, they might help you too. This is a long article so maybe make yourself a cup of tea or coffee before reading!
1. Stop what you are doing immediately!
I know this sounds obvious but there is no point persevering with a card or crafty project when you are not in the right frame of mind. I can admit that there have been times when I have slogged away at something for hours because I had to get it finished and the ending is never pretty!
The events that seem to trigger frustration are when I am having to make something to order, with specific requirements, so the pressure just piles on. You know what I mean, when I say that everything just comes out looking awful, it may not in fact be that bad but your frame of mind taints your view on your work.
This is absolutely the worst environment for being creative. For many tasks, pressure does help to focus the mind but being creative is a different type of work, so you have to know when to stop. So put the project down and walk away. You will waste less time and be more productive if you have a break and return to your project when you are feeling more positive about life the universe and everything.
2. Remove yourself from the scene of the crime - your craft room doesn't have to be your inspirational space.
Another obvious one but truly important,.get out of the 'non-creative' space that you are in. Sometimes you can just feel that you are being drained by an environment. Get the right space to be creative in and everything else will follow.
My own little example is the change that I have had in my creative space. I used to have a shed in the garden of my old house. This shed was falling to bits, drafty, uncomfortable, damp and filled with unpleasant things with more legs than me. However, this shed was mine, no-one else was allowed in and the view over the garden was inspirational. Come rain, shine, hailstones (yes) or whatever the heavens threw at me and my shed, that creative space delivered every time.
I then moved to another country, where sheds are definitely not an option, due to the unbelievably high temperatures in summer. If you sat in a shed here in 42 (C) degree heat, not only would your rubber stamps melt but you would be able to heat emboss without a heat tool.
So now my craft space is actually a dual purpose room (office & craft room), with one window looking onto a wall, dark and dingy and completely uninspiring. I have learnt to deal with this but I do recognise that I need to roam about to find an inspirational place and just use my craft room to get down to the actual work of making something, once I have the plan all worked out.
The key is to find your creative space, if the craft area you normally use is not doing it for you then move around, go outside, go for a drive or a walk to allow your inspiration to flow.
3. Spring Clean your Work Area
This might sound a bit odd but clearing out your craft area and rearranging things can really help to give you a lift. When you look at the same old things in the same places every time you sit down to make something, this can stifle any creativity that might be there. Also, if your craft area is a mess and you can't find things easily, this can slow down the creative process and frustrate you.
I really do find that if I spend an hour or so every now and again, cleaning up my work area, rearranging things into different places, throwing out old things that I am never going to use but maybe bought on a whim, that I feel energised to create again. Just swapping around my drawers and neating up my rubber stamp collection or embellishments, feels like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders. Try it, it works!
4. Go for a surf, literally or otherwise!
To be creative, you need to be constantly expanding your knowledge by exposing yourself to new experiences, ideas and ways of looking at things. Inspiration can come from quite mundane experiences and objects but by opening your mind and trying to absorb what is around you, you can start to develop new ideas from just having a fresh perspective on everyday things. This might come from just changing your environment or by picking up and trying new things.
Living so close to wonderful beaches, it really is an option for me to go out for a surf if I wanted to, although I think at my age and level of fitness, this might be positively dangerous!.However, if I did go surfing, this would be a new experience for me and bound to add another angle for me to develop my creativity. Maybe, I would be inspired to paint some lovely beach scenes, or make some cards using things found on the sand.
I prefer to 'surf' on the internet instead by browsing and looking at things that are outside my normal interests. I might look at pottery or maybe crochet, or even things outside the craft sphere. I will try to transfer an idea or concept to use in my card-making. An example for me was a range of Christmas cards I made using simple stamped clay tiles, painted and glittered. This was a lovely effect and inspired by looking at some clay modelling sites.
The point is that you need to step away from your usual environment or area of interest, do something different and look at things with fresh eyes.
5. In the best tradition of Who wants to be a millionaire - phone a friend!
Well you don't literally have to phone a friend but sometimes just talking to people can inspire you. We all know how going to a craft show and listening and watching someone demonstrate something can really be inspiring, although you can't go to craft shows every day!.
Another helpful strategy is to attend a craft group. Just watching what someone else is doing can really give you the energy and inspiration to get creating and maybe even try something new. Other people see things differently and this can really help if you are having a creative block. There are craft groups everywhere and if you can't find one locally, try looking online for a crafting circle or forum.
Simply getting together with a friend can also be helpful. None of my friends are crafters and in fact most of them aren't even remotely interested in what I do, although they do like to receive things I have made.However, I do find it helpful to switch off and just have a chat. This might be because it takes the pressure off for a while or may be because by talking to people you are being exposed to new things.
6. Do nothing
Yes you read that right, do nothing! Some people might call this meditation or maybe even being lazy but I like to think of it as a necessary action to clear out the mind and recharge the creative engine. You might like to actually meditate if you have the time and space but you don't have to go that far.
What I tend to do is just sit still somewhere quietly and try to empty my head of everything that is bothering me. It is very hard to be creative when your mind is full of things to do, things you haven't done but need to, things that you shouldn't have done but did anyway etc.
We often don't take time to just sit quietly and reflect in our busy lives. I find it amazing that when I do this, ideas do tend to just pop into my head as I have given my brain a chance to offload and then refocus itself. If you can get yourself out into an inspiring environment, by the ocean or in the countryside, even better but you can do this anywhere, you don't even really need to be that quiet if you are good at blocking outside noise and distraction, see point 7. below.
7. Be on your own in a crowded place
This might sound strange but often you can find inspiration in just being amongst the crowd and then retreating into my own mental space. One of my favourite places to do this is actually at the swimming pool, waiting for my child to finish her lesson. There is always plenty of noise but I find I can switch off, do nothing and think quite effectively. She thinks that her proud mother is gazing fondly at her swimming efforts, when in fact I am looking completely vacant and my mind is elsewhere. Another winner for me is to take my notebook and sit tucked away in a coffee shop with my cappacino. I love to scribble away in a corner and in fact, many of my best ideas have come from doing exactly this.
8. Review, revise and re-learn
Being human, we like to explore and find new things. Going back and doing things again can seem like we are not progressing but it is amazing how re-visiting a project or techniqe, can help you to see things from a completely different perspective. There might be a technique that you haven't tried for a while, that you could try again. With the knowledge and experience you have gained since the first time you did it, the result is likely to be quite different.
I know that if I look at cards that I made five years ago, they are very different from what I would produce now. I used to do a lot of cards with punched shapes, which were very simple, used very little in the way of equipment and supplies but were actually quite effective. I hadn't made a card like this for many years but was recently inspired to make some notelets using this simple technique, with the addition of some stamped backgrounds.
9. Set yourself a challenge
Over the years, you tend to expand your collection of craft tools and supplies, believing that you need to buy that one extra thing to make everything easy. You know what I mean! That is why craft shows are so popular, people go there to get ideas and usually end up with bags of new things which they feel convinced will give them inspiration. I have done this many times and my craft stash has grown from one small tool-box to a whole room crammed with dies, stamps, papers etc, and I still sit there wondering what to make!
Setting yourself some boundaries or a challenge can be really effective in getting the creative juices flowing. Many of the craft forums use this method to keep people coming back to their site. They offer no rewards or prizes but people return over and over again to meet the challenge of making something on a certain theme, or using a certain colour or piece of equipment. The reward for them might be five minutes of fame, the fact that they have achieved something or they feel satisfied at being creative within a structured set of rules.
This is actually a really important point as many people can't be inspired when they are left completely free to create what they like with a vast range of equipment and supplies at their fingertips. By setting yourself a challenge, it is amazing what you can come up with. One example may be to try to create a pile of cards with just one rubber stamp design, or using only one colour in different tones. Limiting yourself to one piece of equipment or theme can really bring out the creative flair and is well worth trying. All those forums and craft sites can't be wrong!
10. Try a new technique
Well, this is an obvious one really. If you are sick and fed up with what you have been doing, move on and try something new. This can be expensive but it does work, at least in the short term. This is exactly what craft shows and websites promoting new products are trading upon. You see something new that someone has made and you will naturally want to try it. Incorporating a new technique into your usual repertoire, can be really helpful in inspiring you.
I had never really tried tea-bag folding as a technique but I sat down and worked on this for a while last Christmas. I ended up stamping some paper tiles and using them to make some tea-bag flowers, combining a familiar technique of stamping with a new one of tea-bag folding.You could mix and match some of your more usual techniques or just try something new like I did. There are heaps of instructional sites and blogs on the internet so you can always help to try new things.
These are the top ten things I do when I am feeling jaded. There are others but maybe they will be in another blog post.Remember, when all else fails, just walk away until you feel that familiar tug or urge to go back into your workspace, which will always come in time. This is when you will do your best work!
I hope you have enjoyed this article. If you would like to comment or have any other tips to add to the list, please leave them below in the comments section.
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